Blogbridge, Simply the Best RSS

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I’ve been asked by various people how I keep up to date with technology news, research, and the latest reports…mainly because I’m never at a loss for words when discussing something (big mouth much?). Of course, many people haven’t heard of RSS at all and don’t know that one can have a program to read multiple sites in a short amount of time. I previously used Sage reader as an extension in firefox and exported my OPML list (which I kept on a thumbdrive). This allowed me mobility…I could check the news on just about any feedreader or use portable firefox and sage to get things moving. I could edit my OPML list quickly and easily.

Despite the luxury this bought me…I found myself missing out on many big stories. Let’s face it, not everyone knows how to title and tag their blog entries (current company INCLUDED) to correctly reflect what the subject matter is. Since RSS readers only get a small synopsis of the head of an article, it’s difficult to find out if you want to read the article or not. I found myself missing some key phrases that I normally wouldn’t miss (like FOSS, FLOSS, and OSS) mainly because I wouldn’t see those in the third sentence of the synopsis when I was quickly scanning my feedlists. So, I searched for something that was better than those I had used: Pluck, Sage, Owl, Sharpreader, Wiz. I found it. And to my delight, it’s a cross-platform, GPL Licensed, Feed-synchronizing one that delivers unparalleled functionality and options. There’s nothing like it on the planet. If your interest is peaked, you’re in for a real treat if you keep reading.

One word. Two Syllables. Blogbridge.

It’s one of the best feed readers I have ever used. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to cover near as much ground in a small amount of time. It allows me to scan through hundreds of blogs daily and filter out the stuff that doesn’t interest me. There seems to be a lot of this today as people start out well but then turn their blog into a news aggregator or change focus and broaden what they blog about. This review is going to be populated heavily with screenshots of this amazing tool. I’ll go through some of the functionality of Blogbridge but overall, there are too many features to cover in a single article.

GPL
Guides
Service Account
Tagit!

Some of the things that set Blogbridge apart I’ve pictured above. First off, it’s GPL which makes it outstanding in my book. Second, a stock install has no RSS feeds setup. I find it very annoying when you install a feed reader and find it already has a section of ‘popular’ feeds for you…that’s like me buying a car and them putting in Brittany Spears in the CD Player…I don’t want it to happen EVER.

Next up, Guides. You can choose to have feeds by default by using the “Guides” option pictured above. These “Guides” plugin to their Service Account (also pictured above). Your feeds that you subscribe to can be synchronized to Blogbridge servers so that no matter what computer you install it on you’ll have your feeds waiting for you. I find this very convenient due to going back and forth to work…I’m able to read no matter what my location. Things work much in the way Foxmarks would save your Firefox bookmarks. It’s very handy.

Lastly, tagging is a must for me. Inputting common words separated by comma in the installation screen pictured above such as Linux, FOSS, FLOSS, etc. allows me to quickly filter through my articles and weed out those that don’t contain these tags. This makes reading the most important articles (to me) a snap. You don’t have to put tags in there but they’re awfully handy as you’ll see later.

These things aren’t the only fabulous things one finds in Blogbridge…they’re just a few of the things you’ll see when you first install it. There are countless other functions, bells, whistles, and features that I’m not even going to go into. I haven’t even found all the different things you can do with Blogbridge…but I will attempt to do it justice and showcase the things I DO know.

First things first…you’ll need to get some feeds. Say you have an OPML list you’d like to import. This can be done simply by going to the menu Guides >> Import. Just like you would have individual feeds divided by folders in other RSS readers, Blogbridge divides the categories up into “Guides”. You can also use the BlogBridge feature of automatically signing up to previous chosen Topic Guides. These topic guides are put together by many experts in each individual field of interest so it might be a good idea to start with those previously selected and then pick and choose from them. Pictured below are some screenshots of the “Guides” in action.

Changing Icons
Guides Online
Setup Guides

As you can see…you have many different options when customizing your guides. You can go online and browse different Guides that topic experts have…you can import these guides with all of their feeds when going through initial setup when you are installing. It’s up to you how you control your feeds and how you classify them using your guides.

Let’s say that you just want to browse and setup feeds manually…so setup one Guide as perhaps “Daily Reading” by right clicking in the space on the far left of the screen for guides and choosing “add guide”. You can also get back to adding expert guides here if you didn’t set them up during installation…simply select “subscribe to reading list” instead of “add guide” when you right clicked in that space and hit the “suggest” button. Now that you have a guide added, let’s put some feeds in there.

I love keyboard shortcuts…and adding a new feed can be done with control-n or by right clicking in the Feeds column. If you visit a feed you like, you can copy the URL and Blogbridge should detect it on the klipboard so that when you go to add a feed the url is already present.

Adding Feeds is simple with Blogbridge

Another great set of features that Blogbridge has is the granular control over feeds aka articles. You can quickly cleanup old feeds, search through existing ones, and/or tag articles to find them easily later. You can also share out those tags with the rest of the BlogBridge community or you can import tags from that same community.

One of the great features Blogbridge has that simplifies my reading is filtering. With this feature, we put to use the keywords you inputted during the installation process. When filtering by tags/keywords you’ll quickly be able to identify the feeds and posts in the feeds that mean the most to you. For example, some of my keywords are ‘Linux, Free Software, Open Source, FOSS, FLOSS, and OSS’. I can quickly find the articles that contain these keywords by enabling filters:

Applying filters
Filter by Stars
after applying filter

You can also filter further by using the stars rating system. The stars rating system allows you to rate the blogs that you read on a scale from 1-5 stars. This plugs directly into the community as well and shows you the average rating (shown by the # of greyed out stars before you rate it). Rate the blogs you like higher and then filter by stars. This is a way for you to quickly read the blogs that you rate the highest and to leave out the others that you didn’t rate that high. Very handy :)

So you have control over all of these feeds with filters…what about the articles contained in these feeds? You have excellent handling of these as well by Blogbridge. Let’s go over some hypothetical examples that showcases this. Let’s say that you have 2-3 hundred feeds…many of which may be outdated or are updated less frequently than normal…will you go through each of these to find the relevance to you or look at the update frequency of these (show as a graph in the feeds column in BB) and spend hours finding those you need to trim? Most likely not…it’s a daunting task. But daunting no logner. Blogbridge includes a cleanup wizard just for this situation.

Messy Feeds? Too much mess to clean? Blogbridge makes cleaning a snap with the Cleanup Wizard!

After you’ve cleaned, perhaps you read an article that you’d like to come back to later in the day…in this instance, you can pin the article and keep it ‘stickied’ to the top of all feeds.

Pinning article
Unpinning
Tagging
Marked Read

When you’re finished following up on it, you can unpin it. You can also tag individual articles in your feeds and share those tags with the Blogbridge community.

You can set Blogbridge to automatically mark an article read after a set period of time you have it selected, or you can right click the article and mark it read. You can also search through all of your feeds to find EXACTLY what you’re looking for.

You can quickly find your way through vast amounts of information by using Blogbridge to handle your feeds. Whether you want to use it in simple mode (where you just subscribe and read feeds without using the whiz bang features) or use it to the fullest…there are so many options that any voracious reader would be completely satisfied with its abilities.

The preferences and settings menu’s are robust and contain so many different features that I wouldn’t be able to go over them all here. Screenshots of the settings and preferences menu are posted below:

Advanced

I’ve found Blogbridge to be the complete package I need to navigate quickly through the hundreds of feeds I subscribe to. I can quickly and easily sort through this mount of information using the handy filtering system that utilizes my keywords/tags. I can also keep my Blogbridge updated with my latest feeds and then synchronize these from anywhere in the world via the Blogbridge service. Using the stars rating system, I can keep track of Blogs and sites that I find interesting and worthy and I can use this to filter in or out articles and sites that I want to read first or don’t want to read at all.

I highly recommend that you give Blogbridge a try. If you use PCLinuxOS, you can install Blogbridge immediately by using synaptic or apt-get. For all others, check your distros repositories or visit Blogbridge’s download page. Hope Blogbrigde works for you as well as it does for me!

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix administrator, a Technical Writer, and a System Analyst during his 10 years working with Technology.

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